Friday, 15 September 2017

'Worry Angels'
(Barrington Stoke Publishers)
Published September 15th 2017

'Every school should have a Grace' 
(Tracey Copley - Student Welfare, Highgate Wood School - Full review below)

'Amy May knows about webs of worries - so many people she meets are caught in them, from her own artist dad to newly arrived refugee Rima and her family. By being brave enough to open up her worry box, Amy May helps all those around her find a way forward.' 
 (Super Readable - Barrington Stoke aged 8+)

On publication of 'Worry Angels' I have been thinking of some of the wonderful people who inspired it. This blog post is a homage to two Margarets.

Sand Play

The first Margaret is called Maggie Barron. She is a sand play therapist and I met her about seventeen years ago while researching a theatre production and discovered what Sand Play Therapy is all about. I created pictures in the sand with her collection of miniature objects, followed thought paths of moments of my life and talked of what was on my mind.

I had young children at the time and encouraged them to play out their stories and worries in the sand. One day, when working with Maggie I placed a giant egg in the sandpit and Maggie asked me what I thought it contained...  I didn't know! But I've thought a lot about the sand play over the years and how placing objects and drawing those lines in the sand hatched a creative expression that a little while later led me to do what I had always dreamed of doing... writing my own stories.

Papier Mache Angels

A few years later I met a wonderful teacher called Margaret Stowe. She was the nursery and early years teacher for all three of my children. Like Grace in my story she is a truly creative and talented teacher who is able to engage children with her huge capacity for kindness and empathy in learning about themselves through art and play. Margaret was a maker of beautiful papier mache angels that looked like the children she taught.

I had just begun writing my first novel 'Artichoke Hearts' and I remember at the time thinking that if I did get my stories published I would one day like to write a story including a maker of papier mache angels. Such a story would need to have beautiful illustrations and it's such an honour, all these years later to have 'Worry Angels' illustrated by Jane Ray.  We have worked together for several years at Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants. The art room she has created in the story feels like the one we step into each week. As Amy discovers in 'Worry Angels' it is not only children who find solace in expressing themselves through art.

Impact of News

In the last few years there has been a growing awareness of the impact of world events on the mental health of children and young adults and a concern for how children are coping with what they hear on the news, witness or experience in their daily lives. Children are not immune to the world in which we live and in 'Worry Angels' my young characters Amy May, Rima and their families don't bury their worries in the sand, but find a space to talk across culture and language even though their stories span home lands from Syria to Manchester. In Grace's 'Sandcastle Support Centre' they find a place to play and talk together, to meet each other, to make friends and angels...  As Amy May, my young narrator says...

'When I sit with Rima I understand that most of the things we want to build in the sand are the same.'

Teacher Review  - 'Every school should have at least one 'Grace'
'Worry Angels is a lovely, moving story, current and straightforward touching on the many facets of change, transition and upheaval that affect young people. It touches on so many truths about the need for greater welfare care in our school systems and the fact that there are so many young people in need of a Grace. Every school should have at least one Grace'and the fact that we don't have people like her already in place makes me realize just how many students we are potentially letting down. If I look at my own 'box' at school it is full of students of different ages and needs - they find connections and build friendships simply by sharing a safe 'space'. I see the changes in my students and how their confidence grows just like Amy May. I welcome the fact that ' Worry Angels ' raises the misconception that if students can't make it over the threshold into school it means they are refusing  and being defiant. They are not strong and determined children - far from it! The story also raises  awareness of how detrimental the pace of modern living can be and how children need space to process that. I often feel sad that living in a large city means we very often don't have extended family near us - an aunt or granny or someone our children can just wander down the road and share a cup of tea with.' 

Tracy Copley - Student Welfare (Highgate Wood School, London)

With thanks to editor Emma Hargrave and Kirstin Lamb of  Barrington Stoke for producing wonderful parent and teacher resources to promote conversation around the reading of 'Worry Angels' including a beautiful animation of the story by animator Grace Emily Manning.

'Worry Angels' is available to buy in book shops and at:

To view the beautiful book trailer by Grace Emily Manning visit:

Further articles and resources that resonate with Amy and Rima's story in 'Worry Angels' ....

No comments:

Post a Comment